Review of 12-25-11 to 1/1/12 Carnival Pride Cruise out of Baltimore to 'Florida and the Bahamas':
I would like to set the tone from the outset of this review that I was very happy with my cruise on the 12-25-11 to 1/1/12 Carnival Pride out of Baltimore to 'Florida and the Bahamas'. It was the most relaxing and fun vacation I have had in years. Carnival spoiled me, and I would cruise with them again. However, just so you know, this was my very first cruise and I have nothing to compare it with. I cruised solo, so my perspective may be quite different from most who have cruised before. This review may help those who have never been on the Carnival Pride, or those who have never cruised, or for someone thinking about cruising solo for the first time. And another FYI: my review is a long read, with in a ship log style, so if you do not have time to read all of it, that would be completely understandable. Caveats out of the way, here we go..................
It was one of my all-time favorite vacations. Easy drive there, easy embankment, nice state-room, balcony, great service by most of the staff, wonderful entertainment, relaxing serenity deck, plenty of food, and most of all a grand comfortable ship. It is a great product in a great location for me. I have shared my photos and videos with friends, coworkers and family, and have recommended the Carnival Pride for their next vacation. I cannot wait until I am aboard again!
Here are just three questions from the online 'Carnival Exit Survey' I was emailed to take after I got home, along with my answers to them:
Did anything happen during your cruise that surprised you in a negative way?
I did not like the poorly organized Nassau Excursions on the pier. I did not like the David's Steak House service on New Year's Eve - the waitress could not speak English very well, and it was very difficult to communicate with her. I Did not like the Pizza Cafe, as there was no one there to take my order, and when he finally showed up, there were too many kids butting in line. The TV in room was old and hard to see. My bed was too hard and made my back stiff in the mornings. The 'Singles Meet and Greets' were poorly organized and poorly attended.
Did anything happen during your cruise that surprised you in a positive way?
Housekeeping staff was excellent, especially Angel on Deck 8. I really liked the Adult Only Serenity Deck, just need to try preventing 'all' kids off of it at 'all' times. I really enjoyed my balcony, but did not like the one side that had spaces big enough for those on the balcony next to mine to see into my room. The Taj Mahal Shows were very entertaining, as well as most of the comedians. The Normandie Restaurant staff was excellent, especially Edwardo(sp?) who told me he had been with Carnival for nearly 15 years, and was very professional and friendly.
Would you like to recognize members of the Carnival team who went out of their way to make your experience special?
Angel -- My Room Steward on 8th deck -- he was always around and ready to please. Eduardo(sp?) my usual server in Normandie - he was a true professional who was very friendly and always made me feel comfortable dinning alone. Eric - Assistant Entertainment Director - funny and organized. The Waitress in Ivory Lounge - competent and very friendly. Jennifer the Karaoke Lady - who was very friendly and organized. Casino Helper guy who assisted me with cashing out my winnings. All of the Library Internet Helpers.
With all of that said, below is my personal daily ship log (with likes and dislikes) in chronological order.
1ST Day Sunday Christmas 12-25-11:
I left my house around 10:45 am and drove down I-95 from Wilmington, DE, arriving at the Baltimore, MD Port around Noon (about 1 hour-15 minutes). There was some holiday traffic, but it moved well, as many just passed me while I drove most of the way in the far right slow lane. The exit (#55) to the port off I-95 was the first right after the Baltimore Tunnel. I took the first left at the first light, but I must warn you that there is no sign at the light for the Port. Once in the Port Parking Lot I moved swiftly to the double car lanes to drop off checked luggage, but had to wait about twenty minutes behind 10-15 cars in front of me. Once past luggage drop off, I chose the cash parking line as there was no one in front me there. However, the credit card choice to park had about 15 cars and a long wait from what I could tell. I found a good parking spot near the middle and made my way into the terminal, through the security line(snuck in booze with no problem), and then waited in a long line that moved quickly for check in. Once I was parked, it took about 30 minutes to make it onto the ship. It was quite fast considering all the people in front of me. Once on the ship (after a long up hill gangway) about 1:00pm, I followed the line of people in front of me into the Normandie Dinning room on the same level (Deck 3). It was almost like they shoed us into it. I ate a nice lunch (Pasta) with several others at a long table near a big window. I went to the Library after lunch to purchase my Internet Time (4 hours -- of which I only used about 2.5 hours the entire cruise). About 3:00pm I went to my state room (8168) to see if it was ready. They were in the room finishing it up. My big luggage bag was outside my room, and was carried in by my Steward (Angel). He spoke great English and was very friendly and helpful throughout the entire cruise. I saw him almost everyday, sometimes two or three times a day on my floor. My safe did not work, so he called for help and a maintenance guy had it fixed in about an hour. That was the only problem I had with the room the entire time. The shower was plenty big and the water plenty hot. Everything worked well, but the TV was old and hard to see with my middle aged eyes. The extended balcony was everything I thought it would be and I got plenty of use out of it, just relaxing on it and taking great pictures coming into and out of port of calls. The room was plenty big for just one person, and should also be for two people. I would not want to be in it with any kids though. The bed was a bit hard for me, but the pillows were big and puffy. I took a short nap, unpacked and went to a nice dinner in the main dinning Normandie Restaurant, seated by alone at one of those small tables for two along the upper level center rail. After Dinner I went to the 6:00pm show in the Taj Mahal Theatre. Cannot remember which one it was, but they were all good. Afterward, I went to the Ivory Piano Bar and sang along with Roger the Piano Man, who was very good, but had to laugh a few times at his Asian accent singing Elton John songs, and other such soft rock artists' pop tunes. Most people sitting at the bar and in the lounge sang along with him as well. So, it was fun. After that I attended the late Adult comedy show, and sat and drank with two single ladies. We laughed a lot at Eric the Assistant Cruise Director, but I must warn you, he is by far the raunchiest of all the comedians (5 in total I believe). I finished up in the casino with a nightcap and won some money on the slots (came out ahead for the entire cruise on both slots and poker). I met some young fellows at the casino from Canada, and another one in the U.S. Army on leave. I bedded down around 2:30am exhausted from a long, but unique, Christmas Day.
2nd Day Monday 12-26-11:
Woke up around 10:30am, ate a continental breakfast (I ordered it from a menu card that I hang on my door knob each night) received from room service earlier in the morning (bagels are small and danish is dry, but the rest is great, especially the fresh fruit). I showered, and then checked my sign and sail account on the TV. Put away the rest of my packed items. Sat on my extended balcony for awhile, then went to lunch (Spaghetti with meatballs -- very good) around 12:30pm in the Normandie restaurant, and sat with 3 couples (we all talked about our first night on board, none of which did what I did). I then explored every level of the ship and took photos of each deck. I laid out on the Lido Deck Serenity Pool area (about 68 degrees outside and a little windy). About 4:00pm I went down to my room and took a one hour power nap. I woke up and showered again before dressing up in my suit for the first 'Formal' night in the Normandie restaurant. I was seated alone again around 6:45pm, and eat a wonderful meal of crab-cake and prime rib (asked for a second crab cake and received it). Ordered the famous Chocolate Melting Cake for desert and it is everything it is billed to be, and then some. I went back to my room after dinner and changed out of my suit and tie and into a collared pull-over, and slacks. I attended the late Vroom Show in the Taj Mahal, and it was the best of all the shows, imho. I went to the Singles Meet and Greet at the Atrium Bar -- what a waste of time. There were about eight people there, and it broke up about a half hour later. I was asked by one woman to go dancing in the Beauties Dance Club, but responded to her that I do not dance much, and off she went without a chance for me to offer an alternative option. Maybe I should have followed her -- oh well, there were other opportunities to come that were much better ;-) I then went to the Starry Nights Lounge for Karaoke, and was pleasantly surprised by all the talented guest on the ship who could actually hold a tune. Finished up the night in the casino where I lost at Poker, but won at the slots to finish ahead for the night. I was in bed by 1:30am or so. My state-room (8168) was right under the Lido Deck Stage, so I had to use ear plugs some nights due to the loud thumping and chair dragging right above my bed. Not a big problem though, as long as you have ear plugs.
3rd Day Tuesday 12-27-11:
I got out of bed around 9:30am. I checked my sail and sign card account, then sat on the balcony and ate the continental breakfast I received earlier that morning via room service. The outside temperature was already 72 degrees. I starting writing this log on the balcony, but did not finish it until a few days after the cruise ended. I went down to Guest Services to clear up a discrepancy I found on my S&S card account(they fixed it quickly), and then went to the library to check email. I ate lunch on the Lido deck Deli around 12:30pm (Had the Grilled Ham & Cheese -- it had not been not heated up long enough, but was edible). I laid out on the Serenity Deck by the pool until around 2pm, then went over to the Apollo Pool to watch the hairy chest contest( It was kind of funny, but tacky as expected, and of course the wrong guy won, imho). I went down to the Taj Mahal around 4:00pm and watched the Wedding Game (very entertaining and funny). I went to the Photo Gallery and purchased three of the photos taken of me by Carnival; the main portrait they take during embankment, and from the first two dinners, including the formal ($11.50 each). I took a quick nap on my balcony, then down to the 7:00pm Juggler show in the Taj Mahal. It was one of the America's Got Talent Contestants last season, and he was very good, not to mention hilarious). I went to the Internet Cafe for a short check on email (was expecting something important in my inbox). Had a quick dinner in Normandie around 8:45pm (Fried Chicken and Mash Potatoes -- not very good). I went to the Butterfly Lounge to see the 9:45pm Adult Comedian Show (a middle aged comedian who looked, and sounded, like Dice Clay (he was very funny). Ended the night at the Perfect Game Sports Bar watching an NBA game, and won $40 on the bar top virtual poker game. I was in bed and asleep by midnight.
4th Day Wednesday 12-28-12:
I woke up at 6:00am to the 'room service guy' knocking at my door, and eat the continental breakfast before going down to the deck 3 gangway for the 8:30am Port Canaveral Excursion to the Kennedy Space Center (very organized and interesting tour, but a lot of walking). I especially liked seeing the Hubble 3D IMAX movie). Had lunch at one of the park's cafeterias and was back on ship around 4:00pm). I went to my room and sat on my balcony as it was such a nice day out, and took photos of the port and was able to zoom in on the Kennedy Space Center with my camera. My balcony was a nice way to rest my weary feet after a lot of walking that day. I took another shower and went to my 6:00pm reservation at David's Steak House. I ordered the spinach salad, which was really good, and then had the surf and turf (4oz of tender filet, and two succulent lobster tails). I had two glasses of fine Cabernet Sauvignon to wash it all down with. The only alcohol I had that night. And I finished with the biggest slice of cheese cake I have ever been served that I could only eat about half of. David's Steak House is a must on the Pride. It is at the top of the ship with large windows overlooking the ocean. The service that night was impeccable, but no so on the last night, as I will explain later. I went to the Taj Mahal for the 7:30pm Trivia Competition Show (guessing songs on a few notes). It was very entertaining. I met a nice woman there and we teamed up to come in nearly last place, but it was a blast. We stuck around for the Liars Club Show (really just a knock off of the old truth or consequences TV game show). That was not as entertaining, but we stuck it out through the end. I went back to my room early, watched a pay per view movie and was asleep by 11:30pm, only to be awakened just after midnight to loud thumping coming from above me. Apparently there was a midnight rock it out party on the lido deck stage that lasted until 3am. I put in a pair of ear plugs that allowed me to drown out the late night revelers. In addition to the thumping there was some chair dragging above my room on the lido deck at all hours during the entire cruise, but it didn't bother me too much. If you are on the 8th deck (Panoramic), make sure you bring ear plugs to sleep.
5th Day Thursday 12-29-12:
I got up around 7:30am to the knock on the door by room service bringing my daily continental breakfast. I showered and packed a small backpack for the quickly back to the ship in beachwear and flip flops, making it ba'Nassau Bus Tour and Beach' Excursion. I left the ship earlier than I needed to, as I set my clock to Atlantic Time thinking Nassau was on it, but I was informed later they were still on Eastern Time. So, I was the first one off the ship, as I walked up the long dock, then up the long pier to the terminal. Once I realized my ship excursion tour guide was no where to be found, I walked all the way back to the ship to find several tour guides now just outside of the gangway with signs directing a thousand or so shipmates to each respective excursion. It was chaos, but eventually they put it all together and walked us in different lines to the terminal and to our respective buses. After that bad experience, my tour and beach day were great. My Nassau Tour was informative, and the beach was nice. However, be warned that the guide will ask for tips when you depart the bus at the beach, and then again later at the terminal at final drop off. The Poop Deck Restaurant next to the beach had good 'Conch Chowder' and sandwiches for lunch. They dropped us off at the terminal around 3:30pm, and I walked over to the Green Turtle Sports Bar about a block away to watch the Notre Dame Bowl Game. I drank there with some Locals until about 9pm when they reminded me I had to be back to the ship before 9:30pm. I walked very ck just in time before the ship set sail again. I changed out of my beachwear and into my nightly garb and went to the Ivory Bar for another sing-along with Roger the Asian Piano Man. I left there after another great sing-along with a packed lounge, and went to the Butterfly Lounge for the team competition. I teamed up with a woman a little older than me, and a married couple in the 30s sitting near me. At one point the women had to take their bras off under their shirts and the men had to take off our shirts and wear their bras onto the stage. There were several bare chested men with bras all lined up on the stage competing for the grand prize. Some middle aged Asian fellow won the competition (a bottle of Champagne) by doing some pretty crazy acts on stage. It was a lot of wild drunken fun that night. Stayed at Butterflies for the Karaoke All-Stars singing with the Ship Band at Midnight, but only stayed a little while due to the sudden realization I had not had any dinner yet, so I stumbled back to my state-room for a very late supper via room service. I fell asleep around 1:30am after a very long day and night.
6th Day Friday 12/30/12:
I woke up early again for some reason. The bright sunrise blasted into my room around 7:00am and my balcony was calling me to watch it with a cup of tea. Room service arrived about an hour later, which I ate on the balcony while we pulled into Freeport. I showered and was off the ship around 10:00am. I did not have an excursion purchased for Freeport, so I just walked around the dockside straw market and took some photos. I went back to the Library to check email around noon. The Mermaid Grille Buffet lines were too long again, so I ate a late lunch on the lido deck Deli again (Reuben and slaw), then a quick swim in the Poseidon Pool. I laid out on the Serenity Adult Deck until about 2pm., before heading back to my balcony, as we left port around 3pm. It was so sunny and warm that day that the photos and videos of leaving port came out phenomenal. It was the most relaxing afternoon of the cruise; while sitting on my balcony watching us leave port and making our way back out to sea again for the long trip back to Baltimore. I went to an early dinner at Normandie(Tilapia -- overcooked), and that deliciously famous chocolate melting cake with two ice creams this time, and a cappuccino as I was not drinking after last night's Nassau Drunkfest! Went to the Taj Mahal Theater at 8:30pm to see the Jazzin Show, and although not as good as the Vroom Show, it was very entertaining, with some very good dancing. I went to the 9:45pm Adult Comedy show and met a couple of single ladies, as we watched what I thought were two only moderately funny comedians, with an hour break in between them. The last comedian was announced as being on the Oprah Winfrey Show. I was back in my room late and fell asleep around 3am.
7th Day Saturday 12/31/11:
I was out of bed around 9:30am. I ate some leftovers in my fridge from a previous room service(s) for breakfast, as I forgot to fill out the breakfast card last night. I reviewed the debarkation handout and watched the TV version as well, then showered and went down to the Library to check email again. I went up to the Lido Deck Apollo Pool as there were very few kids up there for some reason, and laid out there until about 1:30pm. I tried getting a late lunch in Mermaids Grille, but only the Pizza Cafe was open. I stood in line for a few minutes before a bunch of kids came running up to the counter and butted in line again, so I went back to my room and ordered room service (Cornbeef on Rye and Chips, with some assorted chocolate chip cookies -- yummy). I sat on my balcony for an hour or so. I went down to the casino to cash out my winnings around 3:30pm, and then I purchased the Voyage DVD at the Photo Shop. I went to the FAIRWELL Party (free drinks -- and they were 'not' watered down) in the Taj Mahal and sat with the two single ladies I met the night before. The three of us then went to the Starry Night lounge for Karaoke until about 8:00pm. I went back to my room to pack and leave my checked luggage outside my room, and to change into more formal wear to rejoin the two ladies at David's Steak House for dinner for a 9:15pm reservation (the service was very bad this time there as the waitress could not speak English well -- but the food was superb -- had the excellent spinach salad again, and a 14oz New York Strip I could not finish, even with no desert). After Dinner I went up to the Lido Deck Stage for the New Years Celebration, and back to my room not too long after to get a good night's rest before debarkation the next morning.
8th Day Sunday New Years Day 01/01/12:
The alarm went off early at 6:30am. I got up with another well deserved hangover, took a long hot shower, got into whatever clothes I had left over, and went down to the Normandie Restaurant for my first hot breakfast of the cruise. I came back up to the room and packed my carry-on bag, and was out of the room by 8:45am and down to one of the debarkation waiting areas(I chose the Taj Mahal as it had a big movie screen with ESPN providing highlights of the bowl games). My Zone 7 was called earlier than scheduled (around 11am), and I walked to the gangway, down it in a long but quick line, through customs very quickly, and found my checked bag quickly, and rolled it out to my vehicle in the parking lot; all in less than an hour. I was on the road before noon, but I would be remiss if I did not warn you about the poor signage for I-95 northbound drivers. The left hand turn you need to make does not have a sign posted to instruct you to do so at the traffic light. Just know when you come upon the first traffic light to turn left to make your way to the I-95 North entrance ramp. It's almost like a u-turn headed back the terminal. The drive home was as easy as the drive down, making it from Terminal to Home in about and hour and fifteen minutes. If you live within driving distance of the Baltimore Port, it is a no-brainer to book a cruise out of it on the Carnival Pride. I may try Royal Caribbean (RCL) out of Baltimore next, to compare the two. I don't know though, as it will be hard to beat the PRIDE for me!